Floods drench Eastern Slovakia

Two weeks of heavy flooding in the Košice region of Slovakia has damaged hundreds of homes and soaked more than 100,000 hectares of agricultural land, causing millions of crowns of damage, Interior Ministry officials reported last week.
The heavy floods are the latest natural disaster to hit regions which struggled with heavy snowfall this winter and have still not recovered from a major flood in the fall of 1998. Due to the flooding of wells, hundreds of people are without clean drinking water.
"It's just been one catastrophe after another," said Dr. Viera Navková of the state health institution in Michalovce.

Two weeks of heavy flooding in the Košice region of Slovakia has damaged hundreds of homes and soaked more than 100,000 hectares of agricultural land, causing millions of crowns of damage, Interior Ministry officials reported last week.

The heavy floods are the latest natural disaster to hit regions which struggled with heavy snowfall this winter and have still not recovered from a major flood in the fall of 1998. Due to the flooding of wells, hundreds of people are without clean drinking water.

"It's just been one catastrophe after another," said Dr. Viera Navková of the state health institution in Michalovce.

Anna Majkútová, spokeswoman for the water economy section of the Interior Ministry, said areas around the Latorica, Uh, Bodrog and Laborec rivers were among the worst affected. In Navková's home region of Michalovce, 233 people had to be evacuated from their homes, Majkútová said. Some of the areas had not yet received all of the disaster relief money they were due from last year's flooding, she said.

As of March 17, 70,000 hectares of farm land was underwater in Košice, or a total of 22.3% of all land in the district. An additional 40,000 hectares (11.8%) were damaged.

By official count, flood waters significantly damaged 618 houses and flowed into 8,500 cellars and 6,300 wells. The total estimated damage caused since the flooding began March 3 was 311 million crowns, she said.

At a March 15 news conference, Agriculture Minister Pavol Koncoš said one-fifth of the projected grain harvest of 250,000 tonnes may be lost. Feed-stock being held for animals in barns has also been damaged, which might threaten livestock food supply for the coming year, he added.

Majkútová said the interior ministry was budgeting 300 million crowns in disaster relief to the region. An additional 32 million crowns had been budgeted for flood prevention measures, such as sand bagging around river beds and the building of levies.

To date, she said, two million crowns have been spent assisting with the problem. But on the ground in Michalovce, Navková said her hospital has not yet seen any aid money.

With the wells flooded, getting clean drinking water to people has been a problem, she said. Hepatitis is a serious risk.

While the Red Cross has donated some money for chlorine and other chemicals to clean the drinking water, the state has not given any help, she said. Hepatitis vaccinations have also not been able to proceed on a large scale because they cost between 900 and 1,500 crowns, and the state has not given any money.

"We have to first of all vaccinate the fireman, workers, and maybe the Romanies," she said, adding that the floods have affected the minorty group particularly because many settle along river banks.

The floods were caused by heavy volumes of melting ice and snow. Flooding this year was particularly bad because not just the large rivers, but also small streams and tributaries, overflowed their banks, said Peter Kondáš, a technical manager of the Bodrog and Hornád River authority, which is monitoring one of the worst affected regions. He said there were 28 million crowns in damage to water control mechanisms in his region alone.

Hungary helped control the flooding problem by opening a dam on Saturday which caused water levels to decrease on the Bodrog River, Koncoš said. A low level of flood danger also continues to exist in areas around the Morava, Nitra, Žilina and Ipeľ rivers, Majkútová said.

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